And, as one who has been personally confronted with this line of thinking from a few (minority of the VA Doctor population) VA Doctors, it’s beyond troubling. The problem is that we may know more about the surface of Mars today than the human brain. We just took our first real images of the brain (MRI and PET scan) within the past 15 years. And, we really haven’t watched it function other than by blood flow and electricity. The analogy would be a “Professional” marine mechanic describing the shape, actions, and characteristics of a submarine as seen through radar pings, but having never actually seen one or worked inside it. This is not to take anything from the medical profession; it is what it is given technology and the equipment we are working with. It is a practice. My point is this. We are violating some rules of common sense when we see outcomes, major causes, but then 100 years after World War 1 and the initiation of the term “Shell Shock” that we are still wrestling with the effects of blast on the human brain.

“In a paper published as recently as 2008, researchers at the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience Research, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, concluded that the troubling symptoms were strongly associated with PTSD and that “theoretical concern” about the neurological effects of blast exposure was essentially unfounded.”…/blast-force.html

My thinking on the differences between PTSD and Mild TBI is pretty simple. If your brain is a jukebox, and the events in one’s life are the records, then after a TBI, and some of the records begin SKIPPING, is it because of the scratched record or the damage done to the Jukebox itself like a broken needle?

Again, looking back at WW1, is there really any doubt that blast had everything to do with shell shock? This is regardless of whether everyone was effected or not. Two people right beside each other will have completely different blast exposures from the same explosion just because of where the wave is directed and its concentration. In medical studies there is the need for constants in order to establish parameters. However, when we deal with the unknown and some objectivity is required (and common sense) then its important to do so and not leave the problem completely unsolved. That’s like not being able to identify if a room is dark or not simply because there isn’t a lit room to compare it to. It doesn’t matter at first what level of darkness we assess, let’s just start with identifying that it is dark and go from there. This is what happens when a study is inconclusive. It is found that there is inconclusive data, but not that the data presented was startling, needed important further study, and could most certainly lead to important conclusions regardless of the variables.

“KEEN INTEREST IN BLAST effects began in World War I, when the signature mechanism of injury was—as in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—blast force, mostly in the form of exploding artillery shells. The term “shell shock” first appeared in February 1915 in an article in the Lancet that examined the case studies of three British soldiers exposed to blast events who complained of sleeplessness, reduced visual field, and loss of taste, hearing, and memory. Initially their affliction was believed to be a “commotional disorder,” referring to agitation of the brain caused by a blast shock wave. A leading theory was that the shock wave traveled to the brain through spinal fluid.”…/blast-force.html

The effects of multiple Mild TBI’s are the same as any repetitive concussive syndrome. In fact, the most recent VA studies identifies and compares this to the multiple concussions experienced by NFL Players, the potential onset of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE (Tau Protein accumulation in the brain), and later development of brain disease like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Dementia.

But the VA is so guarded over this term – CTE. Another study on Veterans with brain/blast injury after the discovery of CTE around 2008 showed the development of this Tau Protein Marker, and CTE from Mild TBI. VERY little has been done since! On the contrary, the NFL has taken action. This is where CTE was discovered from the autopsies of Players after they had committed suicide in bizarre ways (shooting themselves in the chest or drinking radiator fluid, etc…) and texting just prior a note to make sure their brains were available for study. This is like a moment of rational and caring thought within the storm and madness isn’t it? By the way, I can tell you that this makes perfect sense when the uncontrollable thoughts racing around the inside of your skull feel like thousands of maggots in a wound. It isn’t comfortable, and the idea of escape, turning it off, suicide is prevalent.

The NFL has taken action in many ways. They have first acknowledged the effects of multiple concussions on the human body, and made strides to make the game safer with increased penalties and fines. They have recognized that these injuries lead to END of LIFE diagnoses like Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Parkinson’s. And that these aren’t just end of life because they kill you, they are end of life because they erase who you are, taking your personality, memories, and being. This begins to happen immediately and it is a painful process to watch as those of you with loved ones like this know.

The NFL has even put a monetary value and compensation on the problem, and awards of up to $5 Million are made to Players diagnosed with these chronic disorders. I don’t think anyone in the military is suggesting compensation. I am suggesting the best medical treatment possible, the same level of attention, and the strongest sense of urgency and priority. The NFL has a new helmet by Riddell with cutting edge technology, impact reduction materials and construction – Zoombang and D3O. Please Google them. I worked with these elastomeric polymers and also non Newtonian formulas several years ago while looking at a ballistic and blast barrier for the military. The blast and energy reduction is astounding’ almost unbelievable. I was so intrigued by the capability of these materials that I designed an assault glove (design patent) for extreme impact reduction –…/vtac-assault-gloves-with-zoomban… (I NO LONGER HAVE ANY INTEREST IN THE PRODUCT OR COMPANY). The military is also looking into these materials and helmet construction. Problem is that the flash to bang is a little slow. The NFL and NHL have been using these impact reducing materials for many years now. Why? Because they are fiscally liable for the welfare of their players. Hmmmmm….. And, if there is any question as to blast reduction capabilities and energy absorption, one look at the Air Force use of these types of coatings on buildings for blast protection is convincing enough. (Google Elastomeric coating blast study)

So, this is one of the major end states of Veteran Voyage 360. That is an increased investment in state of the art protective equipment that will drastically increase soldier survivability (Non Newtonian compound protective gear, elastomeric materials and coatings, etc…). I am delivering this message personally 120 miles up the Potomac from the Atlantic (paddling upstream) to Washington DC. And of course I’ll need serious moral support for this and know some Navy Seals who will be joining for this stage of this mission.

We should also follow these professional sports institutions example in protecting our soldiers as they have their players, and in providing for their welfare with great medical care once an injury has been determined. This is the #1 objective of Veteran Voyage 360, to fill this void in medical treatments that work. The DoD and VA have the prescription drug side of the equation, and regardless of if this is part of the problem or not.

The Task Force Dagger Foundation was there for my immediate needs (most importantly my family) when I found myself in dire straits, and suicidal almost 20 months ago. They took care of my family while I was hospitalized for 3 months in the Tampa VA Polytrauma Clinic for TBI. And then, they sought out, facilitated, and funded the state of the art brain treatment modalities that truly made the difference in my recovery and survival. They sent me to the Brain Treatment Center in California for Magnetic Resonance Therapy treatment. I was placed in the Millennium Health Center program and under Dr LeMay and Dr Gordon’s care for TBI rehabilitation and hormone replacement therapy. I attended 2-3 weeks at the Carrick Brain Center in Dallas, TX, and have been given the Functional Medicine coaching to make important changes in my lifestyle, environment and diet for continued health, performance, and maintenance. And, the most important thing I did was to finally quit drinking (self-medicating), and adding that neuro toxin to an already damaged brain, and on top of what all those pharmaceuticals were doing. Now, I am OFF all medications (sleep, psychotropic, or pain) except for those critical for diagnosis like preventing seizures.

My goal is that 7,500 former and active Special Operations members receive this type of life changing treatment. This will cost $22,000,000 and may be a lofty goal, but I believe it is achievable. This is why I am paddling, and why I am rowing. My life has been saved and changed, and now my mission is to share this with my band of brothers, and to see them helped. My goal is to raise the funds required for Task Force Dagger to care for and treat these 7,500 soldiers the same way as they have helped me. My objective is to raise the funds required for every Special Operations soldier who needs it to receive the same level of care as me. – The Brain Treatment Center, the Carrick Brain Center, Millennium Health Center, etc, etc….and, “Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy….” And Im not going to let another soldier commit suicide without giving my all to prevent it and to get them the help that works, and that they need.

Please consider a small donation as we prepare to embark on this first leg of Veteran Voyage 360, a 3,500 mile Guinness World Record by Stand Up Paddleboard in open water. On March 5th you can follow me from South Texas along the Gulf Coast, around Key West, and up to New York City. I’ll be joined by hundreds who have committed to paddle stages of the journey. One old Ranger buddy (Blackhawk Down/Somali era Ranger) has committed to the whole endeavor, and saying that he isn’t going to let me do it alone (thanks Peter Neathery). We will be making a dozen or more Rally stops along the way. Our title sponsor will have a big announcement in February about these Rallies also.

By the way, I am having a really good morning! I say that because I have off days and on days. Like days when I am totally lost, in a fog, and can’t seem to function. I all but sit in a corner on those days. Those are days I do my best to work my brain and to think positive. Then there are days like this. I probably experience a couple per month where I feel like an image of my old self. Thoughts and ideas start clicking and moreover have connection and meaning within the context of a bigger concept. Wow! It feels amazing! And so I share!!! These are the days I work toward all the time.

Thank you for your support. Josh

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